Calii Love, which launched in 2016, specializes in salads, smoothies, and bowls containing plenty of superfoods and fresh ingredients, and a wide range of vegan, gluten free, and dairy free options. The brand currently operates four locations in Toronto, and will soon open its first U.S. location in Culver City, California.
Dan Gunam, CEO and founder of Calii Love, says his goal was to create not only a destination for healthy meals, but a wellness hub and gathering place for members of the community. In a society where meals are often treated as a chore, Gunam says he wanted to establish a restaurant chain where customers would be encouraged to enjoy their food rather than always rushing to eat on the go.
“We wanted to create a community-driven place where we can help people to feel more positive, change their perspective around how they eat,” Gunam says. The concept was inspired by surf culture in California and Hawaii, and particularly, the mentality of mindfulness and living in the moment that tends to prevail amongst surfers.
In an effort to promote this mentality, menu items are named after positive feelings such as ‘Hopeful’, ‘Grateful’, ‘Fearless’, and ‘Happy’. In addition, each restaurant is designed to look and feel like a surf shack, with a relaxed and uplifting ambience.
“As soon as they walk in, customers should feel like they’re on vacation,” Gunam says. “We are not a typical salad place. We want people to have a fun experience.”
Women comprise more than 80% of Calii Love’s market, and particularly yoga and fitness enthusiasts. In fact, the company offers yoga and meditation classes and various other wellness workshops out of a studio space at its 367 King Street West location.
Calii Love staff members are encouraged to participate in the classes, and enjoy other perks such as free meals and healthcare benefits. Gunam describes it as a ‘people-first’ culture.
“We don’t treat people as employees; we treat them as people,” he says. “At the end of the day, they are our foundation.”
As the brand has begun to expand, Gunam says he was initially hesitant to adopt a franchise model, since he wanted to ensure that each location would be consistent in terms of the culture and experience for both customers and staff. Given his ambitious plans for global growth, however, Gunam determined that franchising would be the best approach.
Through the partnership with Fransmart, Calii Love hopes to find multi-unit franchisees who can help to grow the concept. In particular, Gunam is looking to find franchisees who are passionate about wellness and committed to the brand’s ‘people-first’ culture. Franchisees will participate in a comprehensive three-month training program to ensure each location meets the same standards and provides a consistent experience.
“That allows us to grow the proper way, and build the culture and grow the culture,” Gunam says.
Calii Love plans to open a fifth Toronto location in the coming months, and is beginning to explore other parts of the Greater Toronto Area. From there, the brand hopes to partner with franchisees to bring the concept to Canadian cities such as Vancouver, Edmonton, and Ottawa.
With the new California location opening soon, Calii Love will also consider expansion opportunities in the U.S. market, and eventually, beyond. “We do want to grow globally,” Gunam says.